NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – This month the Apollo Theater celebrates its 86th year of Amateur Night, the longest-running talent show in America.

Before every performer steps to the microphone, they rub a cherished treasure for good luck: The Apollo’s Tree of Hope.

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If you’re a performer and you know what’s good for you, you better rub the tree before you step out on stage, reports CBSN New York’s Steve Overmyer.

The history of it goes much deeper. Back in the 1920s and 1930s, this block of wood used to be a tree standing in front of the Lafayette Theater on Seventh Avenue, but when New York expanded the avenues, they cut down all of the trees – including this one.

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“When it was a real tree, actors used to stand out in front of it and pull green leaves off of it,” said Marion Caffey, producer of Amateur Night At The Apollo. “The green leaves represented luck and money, that they would make money if they went into the theater to audition, they would get the job.

“That history followed us to the Apollo,” he said. “But when you touch it and honor the spirit of it, it’s some mighty hands that have touched that piece of wood.”

When the tree was chopped down in 1934, the man who ran the Apollo Theater’s amateur night took a sliver of it, mounted it and brought it onto the stage.

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Before every performance, if you know what you’re thinking is right, you better touch the Tree of Hope for a little good luck – and the crowd will reward you for it.